The Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach is regarded as a fundamental achievement of musical history which, in the version of the print edition, also belongs to the unquestioned canon of interpretive history. The burden of the work had hitherto been so heavy that one could easily overlook the fragmentary and sometimes foreign character of this version.
But there is a history of the work; whoever wants to come to Bach's only self-contained version must go to the earliest possible version. The way in steps:
3) Bach's The Art of Fugue is a collection of polyphonic pieces (fugues and canons), developed from a single main theme. The familiar and final version (the printed version from 1752; here: version C) was not completed by Johann Sebastian Bach, but prepared for printing after his death by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, more or less productively. The work's unfinished final piece and overall form give it a fragmentary character The fragmentary, incomprehensible way lies not only in the unfinished end piece, but also in the overall system and in the (partly unintelligible) interventions and blunders of Carl Philipps.
2) An earlier version of The Art of Fugue in Bach's hand (version B) features a different sequence of the individual pieces. However, this so called autograph score from 1740 ff. contains interpolations that contradict the clean copy. These are often not of Bach's hand, and some even exceed those of the printed version. Musicologists have therefore correctly concluded that these interpolations were based on the printed version and thus several years after the work's initial completion. Edition Peters published this version (here: version B) of The Art of Fugue in 1987 as "Frühere Fassung der autographen Partitur" (Earlier version of the autograph score).
1) The actual clean copy (Version A), which is the only version both complete in itself and written entirely by Bach's hand, has so far not been edited retrospectively. The pianist Christian Kälberer mounted the re-write of The Art of Fugue (Version A) several years ago, the recording of which he now presents as a CD. Klaus Hofmann, too, has created an authoritative version in his "Kritischer Bericht zur Kunst der Fuge" ("Critical Examination of The Art of Fugue") in the "Neue Ausgabe Sämtlicher Werke Bachs" ("Bach: New Edition of the Complete Works") from which this recording only occasionally deviates.
Of course, a musically motivated recertification of the autograph score was only a small goal of Kälberer’s interest. A more important aspect of the problem was a philosophical deepening of the work structure of The Art of Fugue, a study which is recorded in the accompanying booklet. And, of course, the uniform, aural fusion of this exceptional, complex piano work.
Thus, the development and recording of Bach's non plus ultra becomes a whole of theory and practice, an integral process of philosophical theory, musicological research, absolute artwork, autonomous sound event and subjective listening experience.